A green light to greatness.®


by Mack Twain Manuel

It had been a whole month since my cousin got out of jail and still no call, no text, no nothing. I know I hadn’t written him while he did his bid but I sent plenty of money, magazines, and books. I’ve known my cousin Herbert, better known as J. R or Jay, because he was a junior, but all the hustlers call him Jay-Money. All my life but I never could tell what was really going on with him. I couldn’t tell what was really going on with him because it was hard to pinpoint exactly who he was as he mimicked many ghetto legends very well. His favorite being Jay Z. He is a man of many faces. Faces he uses to hide the one he cannot face in the mirror.


Growing up on the streets of Gary, Indiana, during the ’90s, you had to be hard or you wouldn’t survive out there. For years, Gary had the highest black population and had come to be known over the most part of the decade as the murder capital of the United States. Eventually he came to my house one cool February morning and we picked up where we left off, bonded like brothers. But then, once again, he was gone like the wind, on to bigger and better things, I guess.


I had just moved back to Katy, Texas. I left years ago to grow up honestly. Moving has never been a problem for me. After moving to Texas as a child, my mother would fly us back to Gary every summer to spend time with our grandparents, aunts, uncles, and many cousins. And we would always travel alone on the plane. As a child I still remember a spiritual book given to me by my mother detailing how scientists placed cheese in various locations in a maze to see which mice would be willing to leave the normal feeding spot, the comfort zone, which was a decreasing food supply, for bigger supplies of food located in the maze. Though their senses alerted them of bigger and better cheese somewhere else, many stayed, ate until the food ran out, and stayed in the same spots waiting for more. The book went on to tie in how Jesus Christ even had to leave his hometown to fulfill his message.


Katy was definitely my comfort zone; I spent all of my high school years there and many after. After meeting the woman I would marry and have kids with, fate it would seem brought us back to my old stomping ground, and we purchased a house in the neighborhood I dreamed of living in as an adolescent. I tried not to let it bother me how Jay would occasionally come around to tell me of his newfound life, saying things like, “Man, I told myself I don’t need all that bullshit no more, fuck them clothes, shoes, drugs, I don’t need to hustle … my freedom is priceless.” He popped his collar as he began to itemize his clothes.


“These collared, button-up shirts, some nice slacks or Dockers, I’m rocking these Vans and Sketchers now …. This my new wardrobe, like Mark Zuckerberg. You can’t even tell them white boys worth millions, nigga, ’cause they ain’t spending they money on all this shit niggas hustle for. They riding around in Hondas lookin’ like five-year-olds dressed in kids’ shoes and shit. They not buying expensive clothes and jury and fancy cars. But they ain’t ghetto rich either. They got real money and that’s what I’m about now.”


It didn’t take long for my cousin Jay to find me again. Blah, blah, blah … he was talking the same shit, different pile. I really didn’t want to waste my time and money on another business venture with him. Slow money has never been his thing. And as much as he hustles, he’s always falling off. I knew it was just a matter of time before he gave up. But he did what he does best. He convinced me.


“I need you to find us a house, kinfolk. I been thinking about this for months, waiting to come home,” he said, and handed me a brochure. “All I need is ninety days, kinfolk. I’ll get this money from the school and I’m set.”


He had done research, made contacts, and even had a mentor who owned multiple retirement homes. She had too many patients on her waiting list and was ready to give us some of them. The only problem was I needed to find a house for my family and I was running out of time.


“You seen the movie Wolf of Wall Street? Naw? That’s where I got the name concept for the home … a lot of constants is what’s worked for other corporations. Anyway, I almost fucked myself off when I went downtown to find what all I needed to get going. I’m glad I didn’t file nothing though. The lady I told you about, lil’ bitch that wanna fuck with me, that’s going to give me their patients for the retirement home … she gave me the game. As long as you have less than four residents, you don’t even have to register. That way the city government won’t be all in our shit with the visits and site checks and whatnot. We’ll just keep opening new houses every time we reach five residents. Hell, I’ll live in that bitch, set up an office then we put up bunk beds in the room so that’s about a four bedroom we’re looking at. Hire a nurse to give ’em they medicine. You got the food,” he said and sat back, his arms opened wide.


“We winning, five patients $2-3,000 a month. That’ll take care of the rent. So what’s up?” Jay said and looked at me, confident.


“Sure, I’m in,” I said. He sold me. But I wasn’t convinced he was serious. “I thought you were bringing the business plan?” I asked. I never saw this “business plan.”


My current situation at the time was trying to recover from an L. I had just took a loss trying to get into real estate because the lease on the house we were at was going on the market and we were not interested in buying, even after doing most home repairs on the house for the two years we were in it. However, it turned out my business associates were two cons from the Big Apple and had been pulling this housing scheme all down the East Coast. With that situation still lingering and another baby on the way, everything I had was going into a roof to put over my family’s head. And when I didn’t come up with the house for us to start the retirement home … poof … Jay was gone.


Eventually my family and I found a house. It was not what we wanted but I won’t complain. And eventually Jay started to come around again. But only after he started back smoking. I was holding some bows for a good friend trying to set up a grow house in Cali. It wasn’t that gas, but anything could get Jay high after a two- year hiatus in jail. We would smoke and strategize for hours, dreaming of better days. He was still set on getting that house and having a legit business.


“Man, KD, I need ninety days,” he said. “I’m going back to school. I’ll use that money to get that house.”


Jay is a short, skinny guy with an obvious Napoleon complex but I never noticed. I was an athlete, yeah, but I learned on the court and on the field you measure a man’s heart, not his height. And Jay’s personality was always larger than life. When he first moved to Texas in 1996 all my friends called him Tupac and later Ja Rule, you know, before 50 murdered his career. Jay had been on the “da” block selling rocks since he was twelve years old in Gary, Indiana. When he got down here to Texas back in the summer of 1996 and started slangin’ again, that’s when I started calling him Jay-Money.


Everyone thinks Jay hates the name Jay-Money. The truth of the matter is that he loves the attention. He never takes pictures, downplays the materialistic things he spends the majority of his money on, and has passed his way of thinking along with a list of other stereotypical hood habits to his nine children with six different mothers. The first is still his wife, but he lives with baby mama number four (that I know of).

My mom didn’t want that for me. She got us out of the projects in Gary, Indiana, a long time ago. I didn’t forget who I was or nothing, but I was well taken care of, spoiled rotten by my grandmother on my dad’s side. I was her first grandchild.


My dad was never in the picture, so Grandma felt the need to fill that role; she got me everything I wanted. She would tell me it was out of guilt of her son not being there for us and I would take advantage of it. I was always used to having things. I gained an appreciation for things my friends and some of my family never had. Not everyone had it so good, especially in predominately black cities like Gary.


When me and Jay first met, one summer when I was visiting Indiana, we bonded instantly. Of course we remembered playing with each other during our annual family reunions, but we had many similarities and interests as adolescents. He loved the things I had; I loved his style, charisma, and hustle. We always made a great team. His weaknesses were my strengths and vice versa. His style was impeccable. If he had $5 in his pocket, he still looked like a million bucks. And to this day, he still works a budget better than any financial planner I’ve talked to or hired. I was relieved when he had a plan to get his own house without my help. I didn’t know how to tell him I was stretched thin between the house, my business, a new baby, and getting back to school myself. But I was happy for him. I knew he was laying the act on thick because he wanted me to invest and if I could have, I would have. He seemed so genuine and I think he really wanted to do it the right way … at first.


It wasn’t long before after Jay got out that he started showing up to my house with Big Boi. I met Big Boi back in high school when my mom got her first house in Katy. Big Boi was a dark, chubby guy with a messed-up grill. He was funny looking but hilarious. He kept us rolling all day. He was one of Jay-Money’s cronies when he started hustling in Katy back in ’96. I didn’t run the streets much back then. I was still playing ball and had dreams of playing for a D-1 school; my high school junior varsity coach had planted that seed in my head before getting me on the varsity squad two years before my classmates and friends, after only playing B-team the previous two seasons.


However, in the years that followed I would spend way more time on the streets with Jay than I did in a gym perfecting my craft. I even left Mayde Creek and switched to Langham Creek and didn’t even play ball my senior year. My dad played ball at Indiana University and even won a NCAA Championship with Bob Knight and Isaiah Thomas. But he never taught me shit about ballin’. He would just periodically show up to my grandmother’s house to play me and criticize every aspect of my game. That’s where my fierceness came from. My hatred of him. I was determined to be a better baller than my dad. So I started working on my game. However, at my first basketball tryout at Hoffman Middle School in Acres Homes, Houston, Texas, I didn’t make my seventh-grade team.


We lived in some apartments in Houston around 1992 before we moved to the ’burbs. In sixth grade, an older kid named Trey moved to our complex in Acres Homes, a black community on Houston’s north side. Acres Homes was better known as the “44” after the metro bus route that went through the neighborhood. Trey was from Houston but he reminded me of the grimy street guys from Gary. He was a good kid. Like me, he loved girls. We were both sexually active and I loved hanging with him because he was older and knew a lot of girls. He had an older sister named Sharee and her boyfriend, D. J., introduced us to crime. D. J. was way older and honestly had no business hanging out with a seventh-grader and a freshman. He would always buy us alcohol. He worked for his uncle, and me and Trey were soon part of his crew. He convinced us to rob houses in the good neighborhoods for his uncle, who would pay us pennies and then go pawn it and make some real money. I was in it for the lifestyle. In Gary, you could get killed walking to school but Texas wasn’t nearly as tough as Gary. I wasn’t afraid of the streets anymore. And for the first time in my life girls were throwing themselves at me. With no male role model in my life, I started looking up to D. J. and his uncle. I wanted to be hood rich. It wasn’t until we robbed my friend Robert’s house that my conscience wouldn’t let me do it anymore.


I met Robert through Trey. There were both freshmen. Dante and Roland were also friends with Trey and stayed across the street from Robert. We would walk through a huge golf course to Dante and Roland’s house every day after school and play video games — Jordan vs. Bird, Bulls vs. Lakers, anything sports. We would also mess around with all the girls on his block. Everyone gained mad respect for me when the girl next door invited me over; she was also a freshman and the only girl none of them had been with. After our daily shenanigans, we would then go across the street to Robert’s house to play basketball in his driveway. He had a pool but, besides him, I was the only one who could swim, so we never went in the backyard. Robert was white. He was my second real white friend. Brad was my first in sixth grade when we lived with my uncle in San Antonio. Robert was very athletic but goofy looking and he had a mouth full of metal. We had a lot in common. At a young age, I realized that there wasn’t a big difference between whites and blacks. I had a lot more in common with Brad and Robert than with my cousin Jay because we were in the same social class or environment. We had things.


Robert’s family was a two-parent household, like Brad’s. Their parents were very giving, like my mom; we weren’t always holding our hand out like some of my younger male cousins I grew up with and most of my friends from the apartments that Trey never brought with us. It took him almost a year, but when Trey told D. J. about Robert, we robbed Robert’s house. I knew then the streets were not to be trusted. Soon after we moved to the suburbs. What a relief. I started the first part of my life as a Catholic school kid who was spoiled rotten and, despite my roots, my welcome in the ghetto had worn out. By eighth grade I still hadn’t got my game together and only made the B-team after basketball tryouts, despite being the only one who could dunk. I was starting a new chapter in my life, growing up in the suburbs of Katy, and all my new friends had grown up in the ’burbs. I kind of looked at them as sellouts because they acted so white but it was better than the shit I lived around in the “44,” so I made the best of it. They all turned out to be a great bunch of guys, many of whom I still associate with today.


My sophomore year of high school, I was the only one who made the varsity basketball team, despite playing on the freshman B-team. I was becoming one of the many big dogs on campus and still the only one in the clique who wasn’t a virgin, which gave me hella cred. One of my boys, Tali, originally from Brooklyn, had an older brother, Cefa, who was one of the best — if not the best — safeties in the Katy school district; an older sister, Shida, a junior and the best player on the girls’ basketball team; and her twin brother, Shidi, who quite honestly gave no fucks.


This gave us access to all the places to be in Houston, Katy, and any town around since our freshman year. All the hot clubs, house parties, keggers, you name it, we were there. My boy D. G. from South Acres in Houston’s South Park got his first car and started selling weed that same year and we started to find our own spots without the others; we did a lot of ho-strolling. I didn’t think it could get any better than this.


Jay didn’t have it so easy: life was tough on the streets of Gary, especially in 1996. They were killin’ niggas like hotcakes! Around that time, Gary was known as the murder capital of the United States. The fact that Jay was a well-known hustler up there is what made him stiff nigga in my eyes. Wasn’t nothing soft about him. He was only fifteen, but he could go to any hood ’n he was folks, a gangster disciple, but he got love from all the Vice Lords and Renegades in the city as well. It’s what made him tough.


So when I heard his voice that summer morning, I was shocked. Once I got interested in girls, my days of going to Gary for the summer were long gone. I had invested too much time during the school year building friendships with all the girls I wanted to slay. Summertime was like being a kid in a candy store for me. Gary was like being a kid going door to door with overpriced chocolate bars, whereas Texas was like Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory. Girls came in all sizes, shapes, colors, and flavors. No way I was leaving Candyland to go dodge bullets in G. I.


I was awakened by the ringing of my cell phone. It was going off for the fifth time in a row, so I figured it must be important. Everything still looked blurry from a night out on the town. I had no idea who I talked into staying the night with me; her breasts were nice but her long dark hair covered her face. I had no doubts about the voice coming through my phone, though.


“What’s up, nigga?” the voice said.


“Jay?” I asked, confused. He was supposed to be in Indiana.


“Yeah,” he said.


“Why you callin’ me from Bruiser’s phone?” I asked.


“’Cause I’m in Texas, nigga!” he said, excited.


I hung up, threw on some clothes, gave a quick two fingers and a “Bye, Felicia!” to the girl with the nice tits, and sped over to my aunt’s house to see him.


When I walked in, my uncle Daniel was cutting around lumps that covered Jay’s head. Blood was still stuck to Jay’s face and all over his clothes. He was sitting on my uncle’s bar stool in the kitchen as my uncle maneuvered around the knots on Jay’s head. My grin quickly vanished and I couldn’t figure out for the life of me why Jay had a big Kool-Aid smile on his face. His smile was the only thing keeping my tears back.


After some crafty cutting around the bruises, Jay and I went outside to talk alone. I couldn’t focus on his words at first; I was too busy looking at the dried blood that had run from the top of his head, down his face, onto his shirt and shorts. Yet he was walking with a smile on his face and the hot Texas sun on his back as if he were taking a stroll on the beach.


I had all kinds of things going through my head, yet he was moseying along, flicking the BIC lighter to light his Newport. He had a look on his face like it was good to be alive, but my blood was beginning to boil as I examined the countless knots on his head and the dried blood stream.


“What the fuck, Jay,” I said. “What happened?”


He giggled, exhaled, and said, “You remember my sister’s boyfriend, Enoch? He tried to kill me.”


Enoch was a Vicelord. My cousin was folks, and they had just moved to the East Side of Gary. There weren’t many folks on the East Side. Jay eventually worked for Enoch, he ran the Vice Lords on 13th street, but Jay was making everybody’s pockets smaller so ….


Jay said it was the rocks that woke him as his head repeatedly bounced up and down, slamming against the ground. He couldn’t open his eyes because, after he had been pistol whipped, the blood had dried over his lids. He could feel himself being dragged further into the woods to the shallow grave Enoch had dug for him the night before. He knew what was going to happen — and then he heard something. The faint sound of cars, no traffic. He felt a cool breeze and knew he was near a road. He jumped up and bolted blindly for the sounds. He never heard the footsteps behind him and couldn’t see the traffic in front of him. He wasn’t going to stop running, he told himself. Run.


The car Jay found slammed on the brakes as it grazed him and slung him to the ground. He jumped up and felt for the voice.


“Young man, are you OK?” the voice questioned.


“He’s trying to kill me. Get me out of here,” Jay begged. “Hold on, young man,” the voice said.


“He’s trying to kill me. I can’t see,” Jay repeated.


The old man Jay found was a fire chief. He turned on the sirens and sped away.



Jay stayed in Texas after the beating. For the next few years, Jay, my cousin ReRe, and I were thicker than a Snickers bar. ReRe had come to Houston a few years after my family did, with his mother and two sisters. My aunt, like my mom, was moving to Texas to get away from an abusive, alcoholic, drug-abusing husband. Gary had many of those types of men, like that or like my father, who was all of those things as well as a deadbeat dad. We were still living in the ghetto when my aunt first moved to Houston, but it was a lot better than Gary. And about a year after they arrived, my mom had progressed enough for us to move to Katy. The three of us weren’t too far apart in age, so we grew up like brothers in Gary before my family moved to Texas. I was closer to ReRe, but Jay always was closer to me than ReRe. Me and ReRe were inseparable for as long as I could remember.


Every summer I went back to Indiana he either stayed at Grannie’s house with me or we spent the night at his house. His dad was a hot mess, but he looked out for us. When his family moved to Texas we picked up right where we left off. For the most part I taught them how different the dress code was down here, where to hang, that you don’t have to constantly look over your shoulder when you’re out, how conversations and picking up girls were totally different, and Jay taught us the streets. I’m talking some real school-of-hard-knocks-type shit. Most hustlers in Houston weren’t on his level, let alone these wannabe thugs in the suburbs.


Jay was all about the cash. He married the first chick with benefits he met and had kids in no time; his firstborn was with his sidepiece, and a couple years later, he had one and then another with his wife. ReRe was more the muscle, but also the crash dummy. The type who likes to wear his feelings on his sleeve, the unambitious type who would rather collect the scraps off your table than go out and get it for himself. Ironically, he was probably the smallest out of all of us but he made up for it in heart. I still remember the day he walked into a circle of South Latin Kings talking mad shit and had ’em all backing down. He was crazy.


They ran the streets tough; Jay didn’t bother with school for too long and ReRe soon followed. Anybody I had a problem with before was showing me mad respect now. And with my connections in the streets my popularity among my peers skyrocketed. Most people thought I was selling drugs, carrying guns, and heavily involved in the dealings of Jay and his associates. They would approach me for all types of things—and he had or could get it all. Jay and ReRe started calling me Kat Daddy; it was supposed to be funny, but it caught on quick and added another layer of mystery to the persona I was creating. I was never in it for the money. I wasn’t prepared to take the risk to attain the level of success I wanted; I was in it for the lifestyle. Both of my parents graduated with business degrees from Indiana University in the ’70s. That’s what I knew and owning a conglomeration was my childhood dream. The streets were fun. Everyone in the crew was doing things every ghetto youth idolizes, buying Jordans, rims, pitbulls — but I was applying what I had learned and observed from some of my childhood friends in middle- to upper-middle-class neighborhoods and two-parent households. I wanted to build a foundation for my future family and leave something behind for my future kids. Some people in the crew took notice, as did others around the city. We started networking, organizing, and treating our street businesses like a real business — and all the guys I’d been competing with since I got here, now I had their respect, fear, whatever you want to call it. Everybody wanted to get close to Jay; I was always a pretty popular guy on the West Side, but pretty soon I was known all over Houston, Katy, Galveston—most of which knew of me, but they didn’t know me.


People were even starting to hear my name back in G. I., the type of street cred I got for being Jay’s cousin had me addicted to the lifestyle. The next year I tried to finish my last year of school, but I would’ve rather hung with Jay as he gave his clique a crash course on hustling and street life. He had a profitable operation going and what made him so big was that he was making a lot of people money, but even back then I never felt like I was a part of the big picture. However, I stayed in school. I saw things differently, both on the streets and in the classroom. It wasn’t until I began to mimic ReRe and Jay’s pattern of being in and out of jail that I saw how different I really was compared to street people and people in jail. The streets truly are the survival of the fittest. Empathy and mercy are seen as weakness and will get you tested. It’s a deadlier version of the same rat race in the corporate world. My first time in a jail cell was with Jay in a stolen truck, Jay’s preferred method of transportation. Him, me, and my high school friend D. G. from South Park. I was amused at how scared he was, being that South Park is ghetto as hell, but it was his first time, too. I wasn’t worried. We were just being held pending their investigation, and I knew Jay would take the case. Back then I didn’t know how he really got down. Good thing I’m family!


Punk time, he’d call it. “I can do that on my dickhead!” he’d say.


I did not like jail. I wasn’t scared or anything, it just seemed like such a waste of life.


I wanted more than to die on the streets or spend the rest of my life in jail in a failed attempt to be a drug kingpin. Being a Libra, I’ve always sought balance in my life, and while I loved the street life, I loved the idea of creating my own path and finding a loving type of wife, like the good wife described in Proverbs 31, a wife of noble character who brings “good, not harm, all the days of her life.” And I wanted to be the kind of father mine was not and provide a nurturing environment for intelligent, strong children.


Many years later I had everything I wanted. The problem was that I still wasn’t on the straight and narrow. While I had everything I wanted, a beautiful wife and children and a career, I still stayed in the streets thinking that would be my come up. My wife, Chiquera, would constantly try to open my eyes to the true nature of my cousin Jay. She would point out how his every action was for his benefit. The abuse he was putting his children and baby mamas through. How he never seemed to have the same respect for me that I had for him and how he would use me over and over again, always leaving me angry and frustrated after being screwed over or disrespected. From back when I first started lending him my car, inviting him into my home when he had nowhere to go, and investing money into his hustles. Yet I never reaped the benefit of his blessings as he did mine.


She never tried to get me to stop hanging with Jay or ReRe. She felt it was my decision, but she never bit her tongue because my protection was her responsibility. My mom, on the other hand, always let me know I shouldn’t be spending so much time with Jay or ReRe, which is why I thought it was so weird that ReRe’s mother had actually asked Jay to take ReRe under his wing, help him be a better hustler. Even weirder was the fact that she was married to a preacher and viewed as the spiritual aunt in the family. Eventually I recognized perhaps his could not be shared with me because of where they came from.


But the motivation behind me getting into Jay’s latest scheme, despite what I believed about him as a businessman, really had nothing to do with Jay at all. As I stated earlier, I had just been nickel-and-dimed by a hustler named J. P. from the East Coast. He and his wife were living in the Houston area pulling housing schemes. They would pose as investors of a program that helped families with bad credit get homes in unconventional ways. The program was legit, however, after a lot of research, we found he never comes though on homes. After he reaches his magic number or the police catch up with him, they leave town and set up shop in another. And while he didn’t get us for everything, it was enough to set us back.


You know how the saying goes, don’t lie to a liar, steal from a thief, or hustle a hustler … it made me angry. I felt like I had let my family down. I couldn’t believe I got got!


So when Jay called again I knew it wasn’t legit and his whole act was full of shit, but I needed it. I had just been conned, fucked over. It made me feel weak. After five years of playing family guy, two-story houses, HOAs, PTAs, housemaids, and lawn services, I had gone soft. I became the mark. I needed to feel whole again, so when Jay asked to bring his sidepiece to the house, I let him, knowing he would be with the type of girl my wife would hate, a hood rat.


“Hell yeah, come through,” I said.


Jay’s attitude, dress, and lingo were back in my house. My nigga — Jay-Money. And the side chick was thick. She talked the talk good enough, but I’m a street veteran and could tell she was just trying to sound hood; you can’t say nothing slick to a can of oil. She wasn’t pretty at all, but she was light-skinned. Hood niggas always go for the yellow bones, no matter how ugly they are. Jay-Money wouldn’t tell me exactly what was going on but I knew it was big. He had been making a couple of racks playing middleman for a while; he was back in the game. It was an easy job. He would basically hook up out-of-town buyers with his guys in Houston. He discussed a price with his guy, added on a fee, gave that price to the buyer, and brought the buyer to the connect. The buyer pays the connect, Jay sends buyer away, then returns to the connect for his cut — but of course without the buyer’s knowledge. Usually the buyer would pay the middleman but in one particular situation a certain buyer buying major weight was not. A costly mistake that made him fair game.


The buyer, Bucky, never looked out for him. Time and time again. Knowing my cousin just got home from jail, it seemed off to me that Bucky would have offered him any money. Especially since he was getting dope for so cheap. In addition to hooking Bucky up with the connect, Jay would also accommodate him as far as a hotel, car rental, security, the whole nine. But Jay never said anything. He just waited for his opportunity.


It wasn’t long before Bucky wanted to bring in a friend. They had plans of expanding and wanted to get a lot of weight and cut down the back-and-forth. At last, opportunity finally came for Jay-Money. And he couldn’t hold it in anymore. Frustrated that Bucky wasn’t looking out for him, he decided to take matters into his own hands. We call it the remix. When buyers test dope, they usually taste test the top. There’s rarely any sophistication like you see in movies. Just an eye test, a taste, maybe you bring a “tester” with you. So Jay and I talked to the connect, who happened to be a client of mine, D. C., a big-time hustler in Houston. He and another legend named Mack came up selling fake bricks in big cities outside of Texas, Atlanta, Detroit, and California. They already had a lot of dope money before they started that scam. As a bonus, they would bring girls with them to bust drank prescriptions from the pharmacies in the same cities they schemed in.


Drank was banned in pharmacies in Texas in the early 2000s, after Houston- based rappers’ glorification in “screw” music led to the drug being severely abused. Really though, the shit hit the fan when the white kids’ parents found out that their children were doing it. Then it was banned, which was good for the streets because the value tripled. The whole ordeal was almost identical to the banning of Quaaludes in the ’80s in terms of the price increase. Me and D. C. had similar interests. Although he was a hustler, he had several successful businesses, many of which my catering company provided meals for. With him in the mix, I knew him and Jay-Money were up to something; Jay had found a better connect and hadn’t used him in a while. He used the long-handled spoon for a while, that is, he was very vague and would only tell me small insignificant details, but about a week before the deal was going down, he finally told me his plan. He was going to sell this “out-of-town” client he’d been dealing with some dummy bricks. But that’s the only thing he told me, besides that six figures was the payout.


It didn’t take long for me to realize that I was getting played. So I pulled from the 48 laws of power — 48th Street, Gary, Indiana — to see what was really going on. That’s when I realized how spread Jay truly was. He gave me just enough to get me in without telling me shit. But I got friends in low places and family that’s even lower. I went to visit Jay’s sister. Yeah, the same sister who almost got him killed. We’ve always been very close. Largely because I never let her get too close to hurt me. I used the long-handled spoon with her. I needed info, so I grabbed her a gram of some fish scale — crack cocaine — to get her going. She told me everything, or as much as she knew. Our mystery guy was Bucky, my cousin’s cousin on his dad’s side.


Bucky had been coming to town buying bricks. Jay-Money was the middleman. He had a couple different plugs; both were A-1. Bucky was very pleased. The way it’s played is, Jay-Money discusses a price with the plug or brick-nigga. He was one of the youngest members of the notorious Southwest Gorillas on Houston’s South West side. These guys were the definition of hood rich: expensive cars, clothes, jewelry, guns, and drugs. Anything you needed. Until the feds sent them all away. D. C. was one of them who missed the cut. He was very low-key, not as flashy as the rest. Jay’s plan was to hit Buddy with dummy bricks.


That’s when you bust down a brick of cocaine, mix some with mixing agent, recompress the brick, then compress a layer of coca on top of the brick, wrap it up, and voila! If it didn’t work, Jay would be in the hole for $30,000, the cost of the dummies. Buddy and his people were bringing $110,000. Jay had left me out completely.


The deal went down as usual, with a little motivation from my cousin, but after that I didn’t hear from Jay much. He was always changing his number; the only way I could get to him was to call his sister. When we did talk, he was always rushing off the phone. But he did ball out of control. Robin Jeans, Mercedes 5500, even a new house. He had everything we had been dreaming about since we were kids back in G. I., making fake crack out of a block of frozen white cheddar and Anbesol — and I had to watch it from a distance.


It worked and Jay-Money did what he does best. He balled out. The definition of hood rich. Before he got his house he spent $10,000 on his wardrobe and $30,000 on a Mercedes. We hung out a few times, nothing out of the ordinary. I never went on any of the shopping sprees, the car lot with a bag full of case, making it rain at the many strip clubs. After his biggest come up, I felt very disrespected that I wasn’t a part of the celebration, festivities, and nights out. He called up his friends and crash dummies and side chicks when he was buying cars off the showroom floor, straight cash, invested money into businesses — hell, he even started a business with some of those clowns while not once having a conversation about starting one of the many business ideas we had been planning since he got to Texas in 1996. Many of those ideas, those plays Jay-Money and I dreamed up, were what taught me how to write a business plan, how to become a legit businessman. But he never shared them with me. Our relationship sounded like a Jay Z album. The first with R. Kelly.


“It ain’t personal,” they sang. “You never know who your true friends until you ah umm/ both got a little bit of money/And if you got money and he ain’t got no paper/he still needs you so you’ll never know how he really feel about you/when ya’ll both got some paper, you’ll see.”


I stayed in college and kept at the daily grind with my wife, Chiquera. We had worked hard at getting our savings up and had bought a house on that south side of Katy, the nice side. Despite going through three different schools in three years, our twins continued at the top of their class. We also had another addition to the family.


Eventually, Jay came back around to the house. It took a while for it to come out, but I found out Buddy somehow got Jay for $30,000 and it hurt him more than he was letting on. But Jay seemed to be in a better place. He wanted me to invest with him again. He wanted more than ever to be legit but, as always, I wondered if he had the patience for that life. I knew he didn’t; it’s just not in him.


He’s spent a lifetime piecing together the ultimate personality of a real nigga from the streets. He’s a role model like rappers, drug dealers, and others. His father is the infamous Frank Matthews, the “Black Caesar,” a major drug dealer in the ’60s and ’70s from the East Coast. Jay never told me who his father was, only that he hated his name because he was named after his father.


I never realized until much later, but I had actually met Jay’s father at the height of my father’s addiction. At the time, my dad was actually looking like he was going to get his life together. He had got a job at his old Catholic school, Holy Angels, as the head basketball coach. I was in the equipment room messing around when I saw my father and a guy in the back and he was giving my father a duffel bag. They didn’t see me and after they left I went downstairs to the court where my dad was starting practice. Then the same guy had come into the gym and for some reason he and my dad acted like they hadn’t seen each other in a long time. He stopped practice, called me over, and introduced everybody to “Randy.” I can only imagine what was in that bag to this day, as it was the last day he would coach at Holy Angels before disappearing again. My dad, or Pepi, was vice president of the fraternity and captain of the basketball team at a D-1 state university in Indiana. He was on top of the world back in the late ’70s, but his rise was nowhere near the rise of cocaine, which would eventually take him down. At that time, it was slowly appearing in all the high-end circles and in my town of Gary. Everything got there through Frank. Gary was a black Mecca then, and Pepi was its prince. But not until I saw a documentary about Frank Matthews years later, who we all knew as Randy, did I make the connection. I never told Jay I had seen it. Not even when he decided to tell me about his father after the big $30,000 loss. His revelation of his father was his attempt to stop chasing his father’s ghost … for a while.


But he’s Jay-Money. The following months we didn’t see each other much. Although Jay-Money had shown me his true colors, I still could not cut him out of my life. Even worse, I didn’t know why, or what the root of this infatuation and idolization was. I had so much. I gave my life to a power greater than myself. I was blessed with my wife and children. They helped change my thinking and gave me a true respect for the things that had real value, like relationships, health, joy, eternal salvation — rather than things I cannot take with me when I die. I started to evolve into a better man.


And then early one morning I got a phone call from a number I didn’t recognize. “Kinfolk, I need to come over, but not in your car,” Jay said.




“Yeah, Bucky in town. He at the hotel I always used to put him in.” “OK,” I replied. Not my problem.


“Kinfolk … I got a play!”


I hung up the phone and grabbed my keys. We headed to the hotel and scouted it out, identified Bucky’s car as he told me and Smoke, his rapping prospect aka crash dummy, what he was going to do and how much money we were going to get.


“After I get my 30 G’s, we can split everything down the middle.”


I, however, couldn’t stop thinking about how he was doing this to our cousin and how he even got to this point in the first place. It was starting to become very clear to me that if given the opportunity, he wouldn’t think twice about doing something like this to me. We dropped Smoke off and I knew he had been putting on an act the whole time, pretending like he didn’t miss the $30,000 Bucky had stolen back from him. He was desperate again and growing increasingly angry and frustrated. The play was to wait for Bucky to go meet his new connect and rob him in the parking lot. After serving the dummy bricks, Jay hooked him up with another connect; this one was the same connect Jay had started using instead of D. C., because the new connect had a better price, and he would eventually gain his trust and rob him. Jay was still doing business with this new connect and had to wait for the package to get in before he could rescore. It was the new connect that let him know Bucky was also in town waiting on him and that he probably would be ready Saturday. The problem was that I had planned a weekend with the family in San Antonio. However, I was assured that if something happened, I would still get my cut.


I called and called that weekend to get a status, but no answer. By Sunday, I figured he must have pulled it off and was going to screw me over again since he hadn’t returned my calls or texts all weekend. As soon as we got home, I unpacked the SUV and raced over to his house. It was dark outside and all I could see as I approached the house were the red lights from the infrared cameras he had installed but, as I got closer, I could see him talking to his niece in the kitchen. I was always telling him how to close his blinds so he could see out and prevent others from seeing in, but he never caught on I guess. So when I rang the doorbell, he looked toward the window, then went to the room to look at the camera. I started waving and he came out, but only to pace back and forth in the kitchen.


So I started knocking. Again he went to the room where he waited for a couple minutes before coming back to the kitchen. I was getting angry. I went to the car and called him, no answer; I texted, nothing. I sat in the car for about five minutes and went back to the door dazed and confused. I started pounding the door continuously as I stared into the camera for what seemed like an hour, and finally the door flew open.


“God damn, K. D., you just gonna make me answer my door? God damn, man, I seen ya text and calls … I got something going on!”


He continued his verbal attack but I couldn’t hear a word. My blood was boiling and my head was about to explode. At that moment I had my greatest moment of clarity in our entire relationship. I didn’t care about the money anymore; it became all about respect. All my life I have been blessed and done my best to share those blessings with others. I’ve always wanted the best for my cousin; I always believed in him and have done everything I can to help him succeed. Yet the feeling has never been mutual and him not answering my calls, texts, and now his door pretty much showed me what he really thought of me. I wanted so badly to punch him in the mouth, knowing his little frail ass would have slid back to the kitchen, to shut him the fuck up but, instead, I realized this is who he is. A small, angry man. I didn’t need to hit him; I needed to pray for him and, most importantly, I needed to let him go. I decided right then and there that I couldn’t invest any more time into this one-sided relationship, especially when I have everything I need back home. So, I didn’t say anything, I let him get it all out. And in that split second he stopped to reach and slam the door I thought to myself, “Goodbye, Herbert.”

by Mack Twain Manuel
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